Monday, July 21, 2008

The day

The sunset last night was a river of juice: syrupy tart grenadine, an array of mango to papaya then pineapple, topped with what surely must have been freshly squeezed sapphires. The vast and gentle curve of the earth upheld the luminous ribbon of colors, each bleeding into the next, suspended seemingly ad infinitum...

It was a good ending to an odd and frustrating day. It's never easy to pack the kids up to send them off for weeks at a time. (See previous post for my opinion on that.) But it was a nice flight. The flight attendant was sweet and attentive, moving kids around so we were all positioned more closely together and no one was seated alone. She told me, behind her hand, that if anyone put up a fuss, she'd bribe them with a drink. Heh. The ubiquitous screens seem to act as a sedative for the crowd, offering something for everyone. They worked their magic quickly. The best part, the part which would allow me to recommend this airline to everyone, forevermore (Virgin America*), is that the very same flight attendant walked the aisle with a baby when he started to fuss. The mama had held him the entire time and it had gone well, but when he awoke, he wasn't all that thrilled to be where he was and the mama was plain tired out from the usual race to the plane and clenching a sleeping infant for upwards of two hours. So the flight attendant took him and walked with him. And then she stopped and let me drool all over him and burble baby talk and tickle his little naked feet. Now that's the kind of crew we all hope to have. Every single time we fly.

After we landed, there were the expected adamant requests for the nearest bathroom. The first three women's restrooms were closed for either construction or cleaning. By the time everyone pottied and we got through to baggage, I was cutting it close. There was no apparent way out of the baggage claim area and back into the actual airport so I could find my flight home. There were a couple of elevators with warning signs on them. There were lots of limo drivers waiting, holding up signs. There was no one at the various baggage offices or travelers aid counters. Finally, in desperation I walked toward the customs guy who was sitting behind a big panel of glass doors marked quite sternly "DO NOT ENTER." He shook his head at me and motioned me away. I kept smiling, walking toward him with my hands out, shaking my head. He approached the door and through it asked me what I needed. I explained that there was no other person to ask for help and where I was trying to go. He opened the door a little and told me to "stand under the blue sign and get on the shuttle" and that it would take me where I needed to go. So I did.

As I hopped up the steps, grabbed the pole, and the bus pulled away from the curb, it occurred to me, "How do you know this is the right shuttle? If this is the wrong bus, you're dead meat." So I turned and addressed the entire crowd. "Excuse me, does anyone know how to get to _____?" The passengers were kind, giving unmistakeably clear directions, while the driver pulled ahead, honking long and loud at the next shuttle to keep it from moving before I could sprint to get on board. The next driver was also kind, dropping me off on the other side of the airport and about a hundred feet closer to the correct ticket counter than he had to. I ran two flights of stairs (what is up with the access issues?), then the length of the counter, and still missed the plane. But again, the lady at the counter was just so nice. The guy who checked my ID and boarding pass complimented me on my "beautiful smile." (Aw. Curtseying, blushing...) Even the security line and TSA people were super. Maybe it was all the adrenaline, but it seemed like everyone was just being extra... kind, I guess. Maybe I had a sign over my head: Shhh. Be nice to her. Pat her gently as she passes by.

I must have said thank you a thousand times before I got through the security maze. I noted also that I need to have a different response to the airport employees' good wishes; somehow my automatic "You too," when they've just wished me a good flight doesn't seem quite appropriate.

While I waited the two hours for the next available flight I noticed some things. Mostly that it's a tragedy that the courtyards are locked up. I thought that the agapanthus and jasmine would be a welcome change from the combined stench of jet exhaust and whatever had apparently died that day in the ventilation system. When I spotted the blossoms I actually lurched reflexively toward the windows, thinking/feeling something alongs the lines of, "Hallelujah!" Maybe the airport powers that be are afraid folks will smoke despite the signs posted out there (which would also lead one to believe that the doors are unlocked, at least upon occasion) or choke to death on the wretched air, but seriously, it's mean to tease people with flowers.

So the drenching wave of the sunset was sort of a hymn, for me. It wrapped me and the day in ethereal velvet, placing parentheses of glowing grace around those things less pleasant, giving everything soft edges and cushioning the fragility one sometimes feels at the least (or most) expected moments.

Q's out now so I'm going out too. Sweet dreams, all you dear people.


*I've also had some truly great experiences with Alaska Airlines, but no one on any flight I've ever been on has been as nice as this particular lady.

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